The Foundation's History

THE BEGINNING

The pioneers of the OASI Foundation were a handful of persons who, through the initiative and under the guidance of Rev. Emmanuel Cordina, between 1989 and 1990 met regularly to study and discuss the drug abuse problem in Gozo. The results of those meetings were presented in writing to the Bishop of Gozo in March 1990 and some weeks later to the Minister for Gozo.

 

THE NAME

It was within this group that the Foundation was conceived and it was also in the same group that for the first time the word "OASI" was mentioned as a possible name for an organization in the prevention, intervention and caring field of addiction.

An addicted person is always in the search for gratification in the hope of reaching happiness. In this quest, ordinary life may be considered ineffective and even a threat by an addictive/alcoholic mind. OASI becomes therefore a place in which the environment promises understanding, serenity and hope.

THE BIRTH

OASI Foundation was born on 26th June 1991 through a legal document that defines the Foundation as an autonomous, non-profit making, philanthropic organization free from any political, religious or sectarian allegiance in the voluntary social sector.

The deed of constitution was registered by the Public Notary Dr. Michael Refalo and had as signatories personalities like H.E. Dr Vincent Tabone, President of the Republic of Malta; H.L. Mgr. Nicholas Joseph Cauchi, Bishop of Gozo, Magistrate Dr. David Scicluna the Chairperson of I.C.A.D.A.I.T (Interdepartmental Commission Against Drugs And Illicit Trafficking) and Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Cordina, Founder and first Director General of the Foundation.

Also present for the founding ceremony were other guests including the Minister for Gozo, representatives of the Ministry for Social Affairs, the Co-founders acting as the first members of the OASI Board of Directors, all members of the I.C.A.D.A.I.T. and other officials from the Ministry for Education and the Ministry for Health.

THE FIRST STEPS

A week after its institution, OASI held the first national seminar on drugs. Held on the island of Gozo, this event attracted the interest and participation of professionals from all corners of the Maltese Islands working in the field of addiction, politics, education, health, justice, public order and the church. The seminar enhanced the awareness in the field of addiction on a national level, for the first time it publicly opened the subject of drugs and drug addiction in Gozo. The seminar was a big success!

In November 1991, the administration of the Foundation moved from its initial meeting place in a room in the main building at the Gozo Seminary, to an upper room over a Boutique in Main Gate Street, Victoria. This was the first real OASI office. In the meantime, the directors of the Foundation kept on searching for better premises where to host their organization.

A house owned by the Diocese of Gozo in the vicinity of Manresa Retreat House in Victoria was offered by the bishop for the purpose. It became immediately evident to the directors that the house did not fit the OASI projected plans and the offer was discussed further until the Bishop of Gozo offered a property consisting of two adjacent houses in Wied Sara Street, Victoria. A legal document was signed and the property passed over to OASI Foundation on the 24th February 1992 with one particular condition attached: that the foundation uses the property with no obligation as long as it makes good use of it for social purposes.

STANDING ON ITS OWN FEET

The OASI Centre in number 5, Wied Sara Street, Victoria, Gozo was officially opened on the 25th June 1992 by Hon. Anton Tabone, Minister for Gozo in the presence of Hon. Louis Galea, Minister for Social Affairs and was blessed by H.L. Mgr. Nicholas J. Cauchi, Bishop of Gozo, as part of the national celebrations held that year to commemorate the World Day Against Drugs annually promoted by the United Nations on the 26th of June.

The newly opened OASI Centre immediately gave the Foundation a strong foothold. Prevention activities flourished and contacts requesting treatment immediately ensued and increased to an extent that two years later, in the year 1994 the premises were extended to meet the growing needs.

THE OASI OFFICIAL POLICY

As early as the beginning of 1992, OASI Foundation made public the general lines of its social policy, declaring that its mission will not be that of simply fighting, preventing and treating drug abuse but will be that of treating people suffering from the disease of addiction due to toxic substances which includes both drugs and alcohol.

For the first time in the history of the field of addiction in Malta, alcohol was mentioned and considered as a toxic and addictive substance that needed specific attention and treatment. It took some years for the local scene to recognize alcohol as an addictive substance. Today alcohol stands side by side with drugs and other addictive substances and behaviours in the national strategy promoted by the Government of Malta in its fight against substance abuse and addictive behaviours.

In May 1992, the OASI Board of Directors unanimously agreed to adopt the 12 Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous as the official prevention approach and the concept and method of treatment by the Foundation. In July 1992, the first two members of the staff were sent to the UK for training in the treatment of addicted persons in a 12 Steps Treatment Centre in Pebbleshire, Scotland.

In February 1993, the Board of Directors appointed a small study team, made of Dr. Anton Grech MD, Mr. Michael Axiaq and Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Cordina, to work on an official strategy and action plan for the OASI Foundation. By the end of July 1993 the study team had already presented the Board of Directors with a proposal of an integrated OASI Substance Abuse Prevention Programme. The study team had in fact recommended the development of three distinct programs that would respectively address preventive education and immediate intervention as a demand reduction measure together with treatment and rehabilitation of addicts and alcoholics as a harm reduction measure. All three programs were structured to operate as one continuum of services.

ALWAYS ON THE MOVE

Until May 1996 OASI Foundation offered a Prevention Programme in the Schools, on the Media and in the Community and a Treatment & Rehabilitation Programme from addiction on an out-patients basis. Therapy took consideration also of the needs of the clients’ family members, including children.

In May 1996 another programme, as foreseen in the OASI action plan of 1993, was given a start. This programme on a secondary prevention level offered Immediate Intervention in moment of personal crises as a means to prevent people from turning to the use of substances as an option to solve their personal, painful emotional experiences.

In November 1998 the Foundation made another step forward and opened a residential unit for the treatment of addiction. This move made it possible for the OASI Foundation to offer three separate addiction treatment services: out-patients, day programme and residential treatment - three services tailored for the personal needs and social situations of its clients.

A lifelong recovery presupposes a good follow up care to those who do a therapeutic program for addiction, particularly those who go through intensive residential treatment. Along the ears OASI developed various ways to accomplish this concern. For six years, between 2005 and 2011, a Half-Way House Aftercare Program was piloted and the end results were very positive, but due to financial restrains it had to be closed down. However, the Continued Care Program was restructured and integrated into the final stage of the OASI Residential Addiction Treatment Program.

Requests for the services of the OASI Foundation continued to increase as years went by. This demanded more space to attend to the increased applications for residential treatment. Therefore the Foundation in 2008 embarked on a second extension to the OASI Centre in Victoria, Gozo. A new, larger and more suitable treatment unit was opened in 2011.

The transfer of the treatment unit to the new extension left a vacant space in the OASI premises which in turn gave leeway to an overall reshuffle of the Foundation’s Structure. Consequently in January 2013, in the process of the reorganisation of the services offered by OASI, five separate departments, coordinated under the responsibility of a General Manager accountable to the Board of Directors, were defined. Today the OASI Centre houses under the same roof the Administration, the Volunteers, the Prevention, the Intervention and Treatment & Rehabilitation Services.